“Now, in order that true religion may shine upon us, we ought to hold that it must take its beginning from heavenly doctrine and that no one can get even the slightest taste of right and sound doctrine unless he be a pupil of Scripture.” – John Calvin
Last week I posted Behind Pleasant Faces: Lessons in Leaving a King James Only Church. Due to the feedback, I am posting a series on the issue of the King James Only Movement. It is my goal to systematically work through the decision we made to leave and our response to the King James Only Movement.
A Definition Before We Start
First, what is the King James Only Movement or belief? The King James Only Movement claims that the King James Version of the Bible is superior to all other English translations and every English translation after it is corrupt. They state the KJV is superior in its text (as well as the process) and its theology in comparison to other translations. Churches and people may be on a spectrum in regards to this belief, but one thing is believed that there is something special or different about the King James Version and one should stick with it.
There has been many textual debates and books written about this topic. However, I want to share a different aspect that caused us to leave. When we consider the definition and what they believe, what does it mean for the church to believe this?
How About a Game of Monopoly?
Summer has hit and so has the heat. A family on vacation finds it too hot outside to do anything. Instead, they rummage up an old classic board game that will be fun to play together: Monopoly. The silver pieces cling against the table as they are dumped out. Hands grab for the Top Hat, the Dog, or the Car. No one really wants to be the Iron or the Wheelbarrow. The money is dealt and all minds begin to strategize how to make their opponents cry when mortgaging various properties in loss.
As the dice hit the board and the game starts, things begin to change. “And now I get $200, because it’s my birthday.” “No! That’s cheating.” “House Rules!” How many have heard that phrase, “House Rules?” Once that phrase is said, the only way to calm everyone down is to pull out the rule book that can be dated to 1934. Once the rule book is read, the game begins to form itself along the original guidelines.
Doctrine and House Rules
“One cannot reach his full spiritual potential without the better truth of the King James. The issue of the King James is a doctrinal stance for the church and a key component of the faith, and should be taught as such.” Doctrine? What does it mean when a pastor claims something is doctrine and a key element of the faith?
In the King James Only Movement, this is what is at the basis of their belief. The King James Bible is a core doctrine for the church. What is a doctrine? A doctrine is a teaching in the Bible on a various topic. This would include teachings such as creation, the incarnation, man made in the image of God, the holiness of God, the nature of sin, the work of Jesus Christ, sanctification, etc. All of these are found in Scripture and we are exhorted by the New Testament writers to keep and guard the doctrines and teachings of Scripture (Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 3:14-15). Doctrines are like the rule book for Monopoly. When there is a disagreement about a teaching or a concept that someone has said, we need to check the Bible to make sure what is being said aligns with Scripture. In church there are no house rules. Everything must align with Scripture.
The King James Only Movement as House Rules
The statement mentioned above is one that is found in many variations in King James Only churches. The question is, is it truly Scriptural or is it a house rule?
Let’s unpack it.
We have seen a definition of doctrine and understand what doctrine is. What the King James Only Movement is declaring is that the use of the King James Bible is as important as the incarnation of Jesus, the creation of the world by God, the nature of sin, and Christ’s work of salvation. What they are doing is adding to the doctrines of Scripture. So, when one lists the doctrines the KJVO church believes their list would put the belief in the King James Version and the necessity to hold on it at the same level as the doctrine of salvation, sanctification, the nature of sin, creation, and the incarnation.
Yet, what is the test? We must go back to Scripture to see what it says. We see many scriptures backing the other doctrines mentioned. But what about the KJVO teaching? The Bible does say God will preserve His Word, but Scripture does not say how. Therefore, there is no Biblical support for the KJVO teaching as doctrine or being a key element of the faith.
But, Paul does say something about adding to the teachings of Scripture. In Galatians 1, Paul is astonished that the church of Galatia was turning away from what they had been taught and accepting another teaching: following the Old Testament law as a way to be right before God specifically following the law concerning circumcision. Paul condemns this belief. Jesus teaches the same view in Mark 7. “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men (v. 8)” The Pharisees were guilty of rejecting what God instructed in order to put their own “doctrines” on the same level as God’s Word. Both situations included a teaching (a house rule) that did not align itself with Scripture.
So is the King James Only position a doctrine and a key element of the faith? According to Scripture, it is not a doctrine. In order for something to be a key element of the faith, it must be on the same level as salvation and sanctification. If you are holding to the King James Only position as a key element of the faith, then you might as well join the church in Galatia that was holding circumcision as a way to be seen right before God. Being made right before God is through the propitiation and justification of Jesus Christ (Romans 3). There is no mention of anything else that makes you right before God.
The King James Only Movement is trying to play church by house rules rather than clinging to Scripture.
What is Preached Matters
When it comes to what is said in a church or by a pastor, we must keep a 2 Timothy 2:15 attitude. We must go back to Scripture to make sure what is being said is true and Biblical. When a church begins to write their own doctrines and and adding to Scripture, it is time to leave.
There are many pleasant faces in King James Only churches. They become family. Yet, behind those pleasant faces is a deception of adding to Scripture and claiming what the Bible does not claim.
It is not wrong or disrespectful to check what is being preached against the Word of God. The New Testament writers encourage this. This means you are personally studying God’s Word in order to keep and guard the doctrines that God has given us in His Word.
Pleasant faces and great personalities can fill pulpits and positions, but what is behind that pleasant face? Is it genuine? Or, is it a teaching that cannot be backed by Scripture and is in fact condemned?
Things to Think About
Now many say, “I grew up with the King James. I love it. I love the wording. I can understand it.” Great! Please continue using it. However, let me pose one question.
If you had to leave your King James Bible, for another translation, would something happen to your faith?
If you said, “yes,” then your faith is based on a translation and not founded on Jesus Christ.
As the Monopoly rule book silences the claims to “house rules,” so the Bible must be put above anything that is taught in a church.
Are we going to be a church that follows our “house rules” or a church that sticks closely to God’s Word?
Two key words to think about: Our’s or God’s.
Our words or God’s Words?